26 days; 292 pages; 83,385 words


Twenty-six days,
292 double-spaced pages,
83,385 words.

My novel is done! My NaNoWriMo project is complete!

nano_08_winner_largeNow, as people often ask me, does that mean it’s any good? I don’t know. It’s definitely a rough draft — emphasis on the rough — but I know I have something here. It just feels good to finish a book . . . there’s nothing quite like wrapping up a crazed, elaborate tale and writing “the end” evenly at the bottom. I’ve now finished three novels in the past year and feel sincerely accomplished. Now, if only I could track down a literary agent interested in representing a silly 23-year-old chick lit writer in D.C. How many of us could there possibly be, right? I know, a million. But it’s okay — I’ll surge proudly onward and outward! As James Morrison would say, “I’m not lost — just undiscovered.”

My progress this year:


And (almost) let the noveling begin!

I admit, I’ve been slacking — after my promotion to editor in mid-October, I’ve found every possible reason not to work on my novels. I finished my second book in May, spent most of the summer editing it and then began the tiring, exhausting and frustrating experience of crafting the “perfect” query letter — only to be met with the demoralizing pain of generic rejections. And hey, it’s all right — I definitely didn’t expect this to be a cakewalk. I was proud that I’d finished two complete novels — start to finish, with editing, proofing and critiquing — in less than a year.

When I started a third in August, I was heavy into the querying process for the second book. Developing realistic, interesting characters engaging in fun, life-changing experiences fell to the back burner as I tried to find an agent to represent me. Though I won’t ever let the polite dismissals of agents discourage me from continuing to write, it is hard to receive e-mail after e-mail telling me thanks but no thanks. I write because I have to write, and I do write for me — but once you decide you’re going to try and become a published author, the game changes completely.

Well, all this procrastination and mental avoidance of the noveling issue is about to end — National Novel Writing Month begins tonight at midnight. I know some folks out there find it a bit silly and maybe just a tad insane, but NaNo was such an enlightening, entertaining and awesome experience last year, there’s no way I wouldn’t participate this go ’round. Cranking out 50,000 words in 30 days wasn’t too much of a problem for me last year, even working two jobs, getting ready for the holidays and attempting to spend time with my family and boyfriend. This year I’m in a much different place, but I’m still grappling with self-editing issues: I find it very hard to write and write and write without editing what I’ve written. I’m an editor by day, spending eight or so hours (roughly!) reading articles, press releases and proposals. To shift from scrupulous spell-checker to wildly uninhibited writer is a bit challenging.

And I’m terribly unprepared!

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Due to the economy

So I got a pretty creative rejection letter from a literary agent today, and this goes to show you that the current trying financial crisis we’re in is hitting everyone — everywhere — and affecting everything, as if we needed even more proof:

“Thank you for considering us, but due to the economy, we are reluctant to represent women’s fiction at this time.”

‘Due to the economy’? Reluctant to represent women’s fiction?! They mean, of course, “chick lit” — an incredibly popular genre, if I do say so myself. Books by Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner are regularly at the top of the bestseller’s list, and just tonight at my bookstore I’ve sold multiple copies of books by heavy-weight writers like Laura Weisberger, Candace Bushnell and Jane Green. Though imprints such as Red Dress Ink may not be welcoming new titles, I beg to differ that the genre is not profitable — in fact, I think that’s downright wrong.

But now I’m being told by a reputable agent that she cannot — or will not — represent me as a new women’s fiction author.

Can someone, like, swoop in and fix this whole mess? That would be great. Kthanx.

all I can do is keep breathing

I’ve had Ingrid Michaelson’s “Keep Breathing” on repeat all morning — along with Coldplay’s “Warning Sign.” I don’t know why I’m feeling all mellow today . . . I guess it’s partially due to the fact that today really feels like fall is approaching. Considering it’s the second day of school locally, I guess that’s only fitting. The morning was cool today — almost cool enough to wear a jacket. I’m going to have to start digging out my long-sleeved work clothes!

The leaves on the parkway near my office are all starting to turn, which is a bit of a scary sight. I have no idea where the summer went. Now I’m getting scared, honestly, because of a series of self-imposed deadlines I made for myself are rapidly approaching.

More than a year out of college, I’ve been working two jobs since June 2007 — saving money where I can, running around like a crazy person, trying to get a game plan going. I told myself I would stay at my current newspaper job until at least June 2008 — a year is a good amount of time to get settled, figure out where I’m going, etc. I figured within that year, I would start looking for a job in something I would ultimately love — something creative. Because I like my job at the paper, but it’s not exactly . . . inspiring. It’s a job. I work with great people and it’s close to home, but I really, really, really want to . . . write.

So I’ve been writing. Within that year framework, I wrote two novels and am currently working on the third. In between everything else, I think I’m doing pretty well! But I have to find an agent . . . I have to get published. I can’t let my resolve on that wear thin because I’m too exhausted to keep pursuing it. I have to just keep plugging away.

But the year has now come and passed . . . and here I am, 23 years old, sitting at my desk in my dim office thinking and thinking. Many people I know — including my younger sister, friends and coworkers — are all heading to college or getting new jobs in the city or across the country. And I have to make a decision — where am I going? What am I doing?

But how do I decide that?

I keep thinking the answer will just — present itself. Appear in my morning cup of tea. Scribble itself across the notebook in my purse. Sing out to me during a routine phone call. Some catalyst — however tiny and seemingly insignificant — will call my attention to the fact that I need to make a change. Do something. Be something.

Because I know I’m here and I’m doing things — I know, of course, that I already am someone. Someone real. But I don’t think I’ll be able to reconcile any of these scattered thoughts until I figure out what I’m doing with my books. And I hope that means I’m moving forward with them.

I have eight queries floating around inboxes somewhere in New York City, D.C. and, I think, Wisconsin (?). I’ve heard back from the two agents so far. One website I was on mentioned “not hearing something” back from agents is, in fact, actually hearing something — no. But I have a hard time accepting that. I know we’re all very busy and important people, but I can’t really bring myself to say, hey, some people are just way too involved to actually do the right, professional thing — sending me a form letter.

I guess I’m naive. I don’t know. But I’m waiting, waiting, waiting . . . It’s been about two weeks, going on three. The waiting is the worst part — the dangerous part. It’s enough to make anyone crazy.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of work to do . . . But I have managed to have some fun lately! I went with my family to Rehoboth Beach on Sunday. I have a ton of photos, but I haven’t had a chance to upload any of them yet. Maybe tomorrow . . .